The annual Perinatal Depression and Anxiety Awareness Week is a chance to get out into the community to increase awareness of perinatal mental health issues, encourage help-seeking, and build connections. At Grand Pacific Health (GPH) in Wollongong, we have been successful in receiving several grants from Way Ahead, and we’ve held a range of events to reach out to different groups of people, particularly hard-to-reach mums and dads.
The Perinatal Mental Health program at Grand Pacific Health (GPH) in Wollongong is comprised of a small team of dedicated psychologists. We provide free individual and group therapy in the perinatal period (the time around pregnancy and following childbirth). GPH is a not-for-profit primary health organisation that provides a range of mental and physical health services to meet the needs of Southern NSW communities.
Encouraging Self-Care and Antenatal Help-Seeking
In 2013, we put together pamper bags, and had a small stall in the antenatal clinic at Wollongong hospital. As well as passing out bags to waiting parents, the GPH team had mini-massages on offer, and spoke to mums- and dads-to-be about perinatal mental health.
A bonus was speaking to midwives on duty about services available (and about self-care for midwives). We also attended clinics for young parents and for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parents.
In 2016, we worked with the Journey to Health Aboriginal Health team to run a workshop for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mums. We were very fortunate to have a highly experienced and renowned artist, Phyllis Stewart, and her daughter Kristine, lead the workshop. A very keen group of mums attended the workshop, where they learned weaving techniques and learnt more about perinatal mental health, staying well, and how weaving can help. Weaving was shown an excellent example of how connection with culture, community, and mindfulness could help mums stay well.
Connecting and Celebrating Dads
We have also held events for dads, as engaging dads is a big focus for both the perinatal mental health sector and for our program. In 2014, we had a Connecting Dads evening, while this year we had a Dads’ Lunch at the Early Start Discovery Centre at University of Wollongong. The Dads’ Lunch was a great opportunity to discuss ‘habits for health’; being present was one example of how dads could use mindfulness to manage stress and connect with their baby.
Mums and dads who have attended the events have had immediate access to accurate information, validation of perinatal struggles, and written material to take away. At each event, we emphasise the importance of help-seeking and encourage participants to share information and resources with their families and social networks. We also like to provide some good food and/or self-care resources to make the events enjoyable, fun, and to get people talking.
We have seen the impact of these events both on the day and in broader ways. Referrals for counselling in the antenatal period have increased, as have referrals for dads. While this is not the sole aim of the event, it is a positive result that stems from the relationships built and strengthened by PNDA Awareness events. Receiving the grants has also helped us to spread the word in the local area, and within the organisation, about the importance of looking out for perinatal mental health difficulties, that anyone can struggle at this time, and that treatment is available.
We look forward to being involved in more PNDA Awareness Week events in future.
By Grand Pacific Health (GPH)